Advocates call for removal of police from schools at rally outside DOE headquarters

Protesters called for elimination of police and school safety agents from all schools at a rally on Thursday.
Photo by Todd Maisel

Protesters and elected officials took to the steps of the Department of Education’s headquarters in Manhattan on Thursday afternoon to demand that all police officers — including school safety agents — be removed from all city schools. 

Brooklyn Councilmen Antonio Reynoso and Carlos Menchaca both demanded at the rally that the city cut the NYPD’s $6 billion budget by a billion dollars, and claimed that the presence of cops in schools is detrimental to young learners.

“Our schools are more like prisons than educational systems,” Reynoso said.

The protest came as the City Council and the mayor are preparing the city budget and have proposed cuts to the NYPD between a few hundred million and a billion dollars.

Some officials say that the budget cuts will result in massive layoffs of police officers and a reduction of police services throughout the city. The elimination of school safety officers, they add, would leave our schools unprotected.

The rally was organized by the Urban Youth Collaborative, a youth advocacy organization that’s calling for the remove of police from schools and the reallocation of NYPD funds for school mental health services, social services, student recreation, and education.

Protesters called for elimination of police and school safety agents from schools and to cut the cop budget by a billion dollars.Photo by Todd Maisel

At Thursday’s rally, Reynoso took a hard line against the presence of police and school safety agents in schools, saying “we are talking about a very few who bring a knife to school.”

However, weapons busts in city schools hit a five-year high in 2018 and have spiked by 26-percent since 2014, according to NYPD data. A total of 2,903 “dangerous instruments” were intercepted across all five boroughs during the 2017-2018 academic year, an increase from 2,292 in 2013-2014, the figures show.

But Reynoso called the statistics on the number of weapons seized in schools as “mere antidotes” and “propaganda tools.” He charged that making schools safer is done by “changing the culture.”

The lawmaker further claimed that mass school shootings “happened largely by white students in white schools with white killers” while “the enforcement is largely happening in Black and brown communities, and we haven’t had any massacres in the city of New York.”

Yet shootings, on a smaller scale, have occurred inside or near schools across New York City.

On February 8, 2018, a student was arrested in a Bronx High school firing a gun in school. According to CNN, there were 45 school shootings in 2019. 

New York City public schools logged 464 “major crimes” such as homicide and 1,104 violent crimes such as rapes, robberies, and assaults, newly released data for the 2017-18 academic year shows.

Additionally, schools logged nearly 5,000 incidents that the Department of Education classified as “non-criminal,” including pot possession, disorderly conduct, and harassment, the data shows from 2018.

Data released in 2019 by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli showed 17,991 incidents out of 32,084 statewide came from New York City public and charter schools — or 56% of the state’s total.

Protestor advocates for defunding the NYPD.Photo by Todd Maisel

At the rally, Councilman Menchaca echoed Reynoso’s calls, saying it’s time to remove the NYPD from schools.

“School safety agents have created an unsafe environment and we have been told that police have no way to deescalate issues in schools,” Menchaca said. “What is really happening in schools is hunger, lack of resources, and mental health … what I know is the status quo doesn’t work.”

He suggested replacing police officer with workers who have “different kind of training” who would focus on conflict resolution rather than policing. 

Meanwhile,  protests continued outside City Hall, with about 100 protestors camping out on a small triangle of grass and on concrete seeking to defund the police by a billion dollars. Other officials have called for lesser cuts in the NYPD budget including Comptroller Scott Stringer seeking a billion dollars over four years.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, said the police force could save money by reducing officers’ overtime by 10 percent, increasing the number of civilian officers who don’t carry firearms, and conducting a forensic audit of the department to find cost-saving measures.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.  

Police stand nearby as protestors continued camp out across from City Hall.Photo by Todd Maisel